Berlinale Review: “Fassbinder—To Love Without Demands”

fassbinderloveGiven Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s reputation as a giant within auteur cinema, there’s a surprisingly small cache of documentaries devoted to exploring his work. Hans Günther Pflaum’s I Just Don’t Want You To Love Me (1993), included in Criterion’s BRD trilogy box set, remains perhaps the best introduction to its subject, while Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1977 (1977), Fassbinder in Hollywood (2002) and Wolf Gremm’s Last Works (1982) are all useful glimpses into the more specific. Though hardly a completist work, the new documentary Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands—which screened as part of the 65th Berlinale—offers an engaging personal reflection on writer-director Christian Braad Thomsen’s friendship with Fassbinder, while providing some curious insights into the German iconoclast’s creative process. Continue reading

Berlinale Review: “B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West Berlin 1979-89”

bmovieBoombox in tow, a young musician stands on a West Berlin street, framed by newspaper headlines that scream “Fassbinder Dead in Front of TV”. It’s a neat, resonant image – burgeoning creativity haunted by the spectre of death – and the sort that’s everywhere in B-Movie: Lust and Sound in West Berlin 1979-1989, an engaging documentary of a musical subculture that plays as a collision of the individual and the socio-political. Assembled from hours of archival footage and interspersed with uncanny recreations, this explicitly personal recollection from British writer-narrator Mark Reeder is indispensable as a capsule of a radical artistic period. For fans of German avant-garde, dance and post-punk sounds – and beautifully bleak Cold War vistas—it’s also rich ear and eye candy. Dieter from Sprockets would have loved it. Continue reading

Review: Alexei German’s “Hard to Be a God”

hardA sickly child prince farts after nibbling on the exposed breast of a large bald woman. An intoxicated man gnaws on a leg of meat astride an ornate rocking horse. Nearby, another kicks a metal globe of Earth across a stone floor, past a bare ass bent over a table, while the camera drunkenly prowls and chuckles, a cacophony of clanging armor, chains, pots, pans, and goblets crashing loud in the sound mix. It’s a scene typically evocative of Hard to Be a God, the swansong of the late Russian director Alexei German—a dense, ruminative film so thick with a comical layer of mud, piss, feces, and any number of bodily fluids that it surely qualifies as one of the grimiest pictures ever made. (Call it Hard to Take a Bath.) It’s also going to go down as one of this year’s best. Continue reading

Review: agnès b.’s “My Name is Hmmm…”

hmmmm

As a lifelong lover of cinema and patron to the likes of Harmony Korine, Gaspar Noé, and Claire Denis, it’s surprising that 73-year-old Agnès Troublé, a.k.a acclaimed fashion designer agnès b, wasn’t bitten by the filmmaking bug until now. Her debut feature, My Name is Hmmm…, certainly suggests she’s absorbed the work of her cinematic compadres—Korine in particular—even as it bears both the inquisitive spirit and uncertain first steps of a much younger director.

Continue reading